Teff: An Alternative Crop for Oklahoma

Project Overview

Project Type: On-Farm Research
Funds awarded in 2009: $14,948.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Region: Southern
State: Oklahoma
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Kefyalew (Girma) Desta
Montana State University
Kefyalew Desta
Oklahoma State University

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Agronomic: teff


  • Animal Production: feed/forage
  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: demonstration, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development
  • Natural Resources/Environment: carbon sequestration, biodiversity
  • Pest Management: competition, cultural control, mulches - living
  • Production Systems: holistic management
  • Soil Management: organic matter
  • Sustainable Communities: ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change, new business opportunities, community services


    Teff is a summer annual grass. We conducted two studies in 2009 and 2010 at various sites to evaluate performance of teff varieties and determine fertilizer recommendations. Teff grain yield ranged from 0.8 to 1.5 t ha-1 when grown in the field. We determined 67 kg N ha-1 as optimum N rate and about 25-50 kg P2O5 ha-1 as optimum P rate for teff. Additional N might be needed if teff is intended for multiple cut. Fertilizer rates should be adjusted for soil supplied N and P. Based on current costs and output prices, growers can produce teff profitably and with minimal financial risk.


    Today’s agricultural enterprise selection is derived by several factors including the conventional demand-supply dogma plus cultural and social forces. Unique to the US is immigrant communities from all parts of the world. With the immigrants came their favorite crops for food and herbs. Some of these crops and herbs are also well accepted by the local population for alternative uses creating a common interest and demand for those crops. One of such crop is teff [Eragrostis tef (Zucc.) Trotter]. Teff is an annual grass native to Ethiopia (Ketema, 1997). As food for human consumption, teff has unique qualities in that it contains high level of various minerals such as iron (Fe), magnesium (Mg), calcium (Ca), phosphorus (P), and thiamine ((National Research Council, 1996; Mengesha, 1965). It is an excellent source of essential amino acids, especially lysine, the amino acid that is most often deficient in common grain foods including wheat and millet (Lovis, 2003). Additionally it is low in gluten, and it can be an important component of diet for gluten intolerant people (Stallknecht et al., 1993). The crop is also excellent quality hay (Hunter et al., 2007; Nsahlai et al., 1998; Twidwell et al., 2002). There are several reasons for growing teff in Oklahoma and neighboring states as an alternative crop. Teff grows and completes its life cycle very quickly; about 90 to 100 days from emergence to maturity in normal years (Stallknecht et al., 1993). Teff gives reasonable yield when other cereals yield is depressed significantly in low or excessive moisture conditions (Hunter et al., 2007). If not for grain it can be grazed to cattle/horses or alternatively harvested for hay. The crop grows well in Veritsols such as Osage clays that have a water logging condition when precipitation is high. Teff is generally low input crop. It requires a modest amount of fertilizer contributing to reduced chemical use. Few insect and disease problems have been reported in this crop even in its native land, Ethiopia therefore no cost associated with pesticides. Teff’s high grain price and niche market encourage small farmers to include it in their overall cropping system. Teff is becoming known as ‘health’ food among locals warranting more demand for the grain. More east African restaurants and cuisines are mushrooming everywhere in the US including Oklahoma. All these businesses depend on teff grain. Many teff distributors are losing their market and are looking for local production of teff to meet the demand for teff flour. The sustainable supply of teff flour for immigrant communities, for industries (health and baby food) and local residents for use in different recipe requires producing the crop locally rather than imports that are not reliable. The problem requires conducting on station and on-farm research on teff for good yielding and adaptable varieties with appropriate management practices. This is tremendously important as the management required to produce the crop varies with soil type and other physical conditions. In this on farm study, several varieties of teff were evaluated for adaptation and yield in Oklahoma. Verities tested in other states such as Oregon, Washington and Idaho plus some new lines stored in US Germplasm Repository were evaluated.

    Project objectives:

    We hypothesized that identifying well performing teff varieties with appropriate fertility package for Oklahoma will enhance farm profitability and allow crop diversification in Oklahoma subsequently contributing to sustainability. We hypothesize that it is possible to reduce the risk of farming by increasing crop options specifically since teff is a dual purpose crop, fast in growth, and tolerant to moisture stress. The goal of this study was to add diversity of crops and create economic opportunities by adding teff in the cropping system for small farmers in Oklahoma and neighboring states. The specific objectives were to: 1. evaluate the adaptation, suitability and grain and forage yield of teff varieties, 2. develop nutrient requirement of selected teff varieties, and 3. demonstrate varieties and management package to farmers.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.